Primarily used by people who are deaf or hard of hearing, American Sign Language is a complex language that includes signs made by moving hands, facial expressions and body language.
The purpose of Sign Language Club at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is to help create an interest in Sign Language while building awareness of Deaf culture and individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Anna McCartney, junior pre-occupational therapy major and vice president of the club, spoke about her understanding of Deaf culture.
“There’s a subset of individuals who believe they are part of Deaf culture because they have the language, they have the pride, the schools, artwork, a social situation and they are known as capital ‘D’ Deaf,” McCartney said. “Whereas if you consider yourself deaf medically, you are lowercase ‘d’ deaf.”
Deaf culture is important to know about at UWSP, especially in the audiology and communicative sciences and disorders departments on campus.
“The biggest thing about people who believe in capital ‘D’ Deaf cultures is they don’t think anything is wrong with them,” McCartney said. “The only thing they think they can’t do is hear, which is obvious, but that’s the only thing and only limitation.”
Many students studying CSD attend club meetings to benefit their future career goals. However, all students are welcome regardless of major or experience.
Serena Holdosh, senior CSD major and president of the club, joined during her freshman year without knowing any sign language. She was attracted to the club because they welcomed everyone and all skill levels.
“We’ve done a lot of the similar stuff that we’ve always done, but I’ve honestly seen so much growth at the same time and I really hope that growth continues,” Holdosh said.
Nicole Babiarz, senior CSD major and public relations position for the club said they hosted a deaf panel this past December where they asked deaf and hard of hearing individuals along with relatives of deaf and hard of hearing individuals to speak. Students were invited to learn about Deaf culture and ask questions.
Every year the club volunteers at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Annual Family Conference. They supervise children by leading them in fun activities while their parents learn about resources available to them.
The Sign Language Club’s main project this semester is their 2016 mashup themed music video.
In this video, the club selects a song, translates the song into sign language and teaches it during their meetings. They even get into a circle so everyone can see each other and dance along.
Members who attend meetings also learn the alphabet, greetings and holiday signs.
Babiarz said they want to let everyone know ASL is a resourceful language to know. It comes in handy because many people use sign language as their primary language.
Taran Brody, senior CSD major and treasurer, has learned more about Deaf culture and the differences they have from people who can hear. When Deaf or hard of hearing individuals meet someone else who knows ASL, they appreciate the ways members of society serve them instead of having to conform to a noisy world.
Preparing for graduation, Holdosh shares her vision for the club after she leaves.
“We’ve been so successful because we’ve had a strong group of students that just really felt connected and wanted to learn more, so we have more participation,” Holdosh said. “I just really hope that continues and I hope this club gets bigger because I love it.”
Sign Language Club’s next meeting will be March 6 at 7 p.m. in CPS 230.